With California's ever-worsening drought and extreme heat, trying to maintain a natural grass lawn can seem like an exercise in futility. If you are considering getting rid of your lawn, you’ve probably also considered replacing it with artificial grass. A one-time investment, guaranteed to stay lush and green for years with little to no maintenance – it’s a no-brainer, right? But is artificial grass really right for your home and lifestyle?
Let’s start with the benefits of artificial grass. High on the list is the aesthetic effect of all that green. Unlike natural grass, which goes dormant in the fall, artificial grass is green all year round. From edge to edge over the entire area, it gives the appearance of vibrant, lush growth. There is something innately satisfying about that perfect presentation of green.
Maybe the appeal is that we know how much it would cost to get that perfection in the real thing. From fertilization to watering, mowing, top-dressing, aerating, controlling pests and more – achieving a gorgeous natural grass lawn requires a lot of time and know-how. Artificial grass gives you all the green without the work. Maintenance is as easy as taking a broom and sweeping off anything you don’t want on the grass.
For homeowners struggling with family members tracking dirt into the house, artificial grass provides outdoor recreation space without the mess. There’s no soil to get muddy when it rains or dusty when it’s dry. If anyone in the home suffers from allergies, artificial grass can be an excellent choice.
Lastly, but certainly not least, saving water is one of the biggest benefits of artificial grass. Research on the environmental footprint of artificial grass manufacturing and disposal is still limited. But it’s hard to deny that having an artificial lawn decreases household water usage. And because the lifetime of artificial
grass products is 20+ years for products manufactured in the US, the water savings are long-term.
To recap, the biggest benefits of artificial grass are:
1) Looks great! Green all the time, all year-round.
2) Low to no-maintenance - frees up time/resources to enjoy other activities
3) No mud, dirt, or dust – cuts down on mess brought into the house
4) Saves water that would have been used watering the lawn
5) Long-term investment.
Moving on to the possible negatives of artificial grass, the biggest concern when it comes to artificial grass is heat. While temperature differences vary depending on the area and direction of sunlight, artificial grass can raise the temperature of an area by as much as 30 degrees Farenheit. This may seem unacceptably high, but it’s right on par with concrete. That is why I often recommend tile or natural stone flagstones in sunny backyards. And having a shade structure or tree is essential for those hot summer days.
Another downside of artificial grass is its texture. 90% of artificial grass is stiff, thick-bladed, and what I call “crunchy.” It makes a distinct crunching sound when walked on. You may notice that the thick blades cause you to slide to one side as you walk. I describe it as “kicking you to one side,” and I’ve yet to meet another industry professional who has even noticed it. I find it a distracting reminder that I am walking across something artificial. If this is something you would like to avoid, contact me to find out which products I recommend for a more natural sensory experience.
If you have pets, your artificial grass installation takes on a whole new level of complexity. The wrong product or installation can leave you with unbearable odor issues. Or a pet that plays everywhere except on the artificial grass. See my blog post on Artificial Grass – The Pet Edition to get my checklist for pet owners considering artificial grass.
I started this list with heat as the biggest concern when it comes to artificial grass. This is true in general. But personally, I think the biggest drawback of artificial grass is: It’s not Nature.
For homeowners who enjoy their landscape as a natural environment, artificial grass just doesn’t cut it.
No fun smells and bugs for the pets to smell, lick, probably eat, and hopefully not regurgitate (unless it’s toxic, in which case that’s got to be better than the alternative). No dirt for the little ones to grab and pull, and get all over themselves. No birds landing on the lawn and pecking at the soil (this one may be a toss-up because it also means less bird droppings). For homeowners who enjoy their landscape as a natural environment, artificial grass just doesn’t cut it.
To recap, the biggest cons of artificial grass are: :
1) Heat! Raises area temperature by approximately 30 degrees.
2) Feels fake - not all products are pleasant to walk/run/play on.
3) Odor – pet owners need to be extra careful about their installation to avoid unmanageable odor build-up.
4) Less living things in your landscape – loss of your personal ecosystem.